Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday July 23rd 2019

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The Buzz 7/4/19

Moving to the East Side Baptist Health Care is moving. Described as “a transformational investment and commitment for generations to come,” plans for a new campus at the corner of Brent Lane and I-110 were announced on June 26.

“Today is perhaps the most significant day in the 68-year history of this organization,” Baptist president and CEO Mark Faulkner said before formally announcing the move.

Baptist Health Care will develop its new campus over the next few years. Construction is expected to begin in about a year, with an estimated completion date of summer 2023.

“We’re excited about this location because it keeps us close to our current campus while also creating greater accessibility to the greater community,” Faulkner said. The new campus will be about 650,000 square feet. It is expected to cost around $550 million.

Faulkner said that Baptist had considered continued upgrades to the current campus, as well as developing a new facility on the current site, but ultimately determined a move best suited the hospital’s needs.

“This facility was not designed for today’s healthcare,” the CEO said. “It has served us well and will continue to serve us well over the next four years, but we do know that a more efficient, more state-of-the-art delivery, with a more healing environment, will better serve the needs of the community going forward.”

A number of locations were considered for the relocation—“throughout the community, in the central part, downtown, in the north end—and the corner of Brent and I-110 was settled upon.

“If this was an economic decision, we would move far north, towards the Pine Forest, Beulah area,” Faulkner noted. “But this is not an economic decision. This is a community decision.”

The decision was described as being a relatively recent one, but Faulkner did say that for some time, “work has been underway to cobble together enough number of parcels to make up 50 acres at that southwest corner intersection.”

When completed, Baptist’s new facility will basically replicate its current offerings. There are no specific plans to unroll increased or different services.

“Right now, at this stage, we are essentially planning to replicate what we have in terms of capacity and services and offerings at the new campus,” Faulkner said.

What About E Street? Baptist Hospital currently sprawls across a considerable swath of property off of E Street. Faulkner said the organization intends to maintain a presence on its current property even after its new facility is complete.

“We’re going to do this in a way that allows us to maintain a significant presence at our current E Street campus,” Faulkner said.

Initially, a list of services and departments that would remain on E Street were provided—including administrative, support and clinical services as well as elective programs—but during a following question-and-answer session, Faulkner said he did not know how many of the hospital’s physical buildings might remain and wasn’t sure what Baptist’s ultimate presence in area might look like or how the organization’s current property might be used.

“We are not sure yet. Here’s what we are sure of—we are committed to this community,” he said, explaining how Baptist intended to engage the local community in determining what happened to the property.

“We look forward to working with community partners,” Faulkner said, “nonprofits, the faith community, the business community, elected officials as we work together to reimagine our current E Street campus to better meet the needs of this community in the future.”

A Whiter Pensacola For decades, the city of Pensacola has had two districts with a majority of African-American voters, Districts 5 and 7, and one that was split evenly between blacks and whites, District 6. However, the influx of white residents into downtown and west Pensacola has changed the political landscape of the city.

In 2006, District 5—which is currently represented by Gerald Wingate—the black community made up 52.8 percent of its registered voters. Six years later, it dropped to 51.8 percent, and as of last month, the percentage was only 44.4 percent.

District 6—which incorporates downtown Pensacola and is represented by Ann Hill—has had the biggest shift, going from 48.1 percent black in 2006 to 36.9 percent currently.

District 7—which covers west Pensacola and is represented by Jewel Cannada-Wynn—has seen its African-American voters drop from 57.4 percent to 46.4 percent.

If Pensacola votes strictly along racial lines next year, the Pensacola City Council might not have any African-American representation after the 2020 election.

Overall, the city has picked up 2,941 voters since June 2006—the majority in District 6, 1166 voters. Only District 3—represented by Andy Terhaar—has lost voters, 17.

Where to Hide $18.7 Million In June 2018, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission asked the City of Pensacola to terminate its lease to build an $18.7 million fish hatchery on Bruce Beach. A year later, the money is still sitting in an FWC bank account, as it has since 2015.

When the agency made its request, FWC officials said, “Going forward, FWC will work other state and federal trustees on the Florida Trustee Implementation Group to seek an alternative site for this $18.7 million project as currently designed.”

Gov. Rick Scott, who was running for the U.S. Senate, told reporters that the funds would stay in Escambia County. The funds are part of the settlement with BP regarding the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Inweekly asked State Rep. Alex Andrade for his help in finding out what has happened to the fish hatchery money.

FWC Deputy Legislative Affairs Director Lance Watson replied, “We are evaluating options, including the potential to site the hatchery at an alternative location. If the project does not go forward, the remaining funds would be available for Florida trustees to apply to other recreational use projects.”

Miller’s Zombie Campaign Florida Politics’ Noah Pransky investigated how our former Congressman Jeff Miller has used his campaign account that he never shut down.

Miller, who chaired the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee before he left Congress in 2016, now lobbies the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on behalf of his clients, who stand to make billions of dollars through the privatization of veterans’ care.

“To help subsidize his new lobbying career, Miller has tapped his old campaign war chest—about $180,000 in leftover funds from when he left the House in January 2017—to cut checks to powerful members of Congress, including at least 10 checks to members of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, according to federal campaign disclosures,” wrote Pransky.

Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules prohibit any personal gain from campaign donations. The agency suggests campaigns take no more than six months to wind down once a member leaves public office, but there is nothing to prevent Miller from spending thousands of campaign dollars on meals, hotels and undisclosed self-reimbursements as he was picking up new clients and starting to lobby the Trump administration.

“Zombie Campaigns” have been in the news. NPR, Newsweek, POLITICO and the Tampa Bay Times have reported on how former lawmakers have used campaign funds long after they have left office.

The investigations have prompted the FEC to review former lawmakers’ campaign filings for the first time, but the agency has been slow to take any action against politicians using campaign donations to lobby their former colleagues.

Washington watchdogs say the FEC and Congress need to protect the American people and put an end to the abuse of lawmakers-turned-lobbyists.

POLITICO detailed how Miller helped turn the VA’s $180 billion budget into a “massive feeding trough for the lobbying industry,” while the Center for Investigative Reporting reported the former Congressman “facilitated a gravy train of government largesse to his clients—a list that includes a disgraced hedge fund magnate pushing unproven treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and a trade group for proton beam therapy, an expensive radiation application. Miller also lobbied on behalf of a troubled disability evaluation company as it secured a $205 million contract to evaluate veterans’ benefits claims.”

Other former Florida politicians using leftover campaign funds to lobby their former colleagues include George LeMieux and Mike Haridopolos.

City Legal Department At the June 24 city press conference, City Administrator Chris Holley said the attorney’s office was now completely staffed. However, when asked what a fully-staffed legal department was costing the taxpayers, Holley couldn’t answer the question, and neither City CFO Dick Barker nor City Attorney Susan Woolf would tell the media what her budget was.

Fortunately, PIO Kaycee Lagarde got the information and shared the data two hours later. The personal services budget for the City Attorney’s department will jump to $896,700 in FY 2020, which is a 125 percent increase over what was spent in 2018, $399,615. The overall budget for the department will increase from $594,882 spent in FY 2018 to $1,070,100 budgeted for the next fiscal year.

Had this information been made available at the press conference, the follow-up questions would have been—what will be the savings to the taxpayers? The Hayward was spending annually over $1.4 million on outside law firms. How much will the “completely staffed” legal department reduce that figure?

Rise in Hepatitis A The News Service of Florida reports that with 77 cases added last week, Florida has reported nearly three times as many cases of hepatitis A in 2019 as it did in all of last year.

As of June 22, the outbreak had resulted in 1,636 reported cases this year, up from 548 in 2018, according to information posted on the Florida Department of Health website. In the four previous years, the highest total was 276 cases in 2017.

Pasco County continued to report the most cases in the state with 314, while Pinellas County had 287. Orange County had 129 cases, Volusia County had 128 cases, Hillsborough County had 103 cases and Marion County had 93 cases, the numbers show.

While Escambia County has had only two cases reported this year, the county had zero cases last year. Santa Rosa County had only three cases in 2018 but has had nine reported this year.

Hepatitis A, which can cause liver damage, can be spread through such things as food or drinks that have been contaminated with fecal matter from people with the disease. Health officials have urged Floridians to get vaccinated against the disease.

Most Policed Schools in Florida The ACLU of Florida reviewed discipline data provided by the Florida Departments of Education and Juvenile Justice.

The ACLU found that among the largest school districts in Florida, Escambia School District ranked third for highest student arrest rate, six arrests per 1,000 students versus the state average of 2.6 arrests; first for highest student arrest rate for disorderly conduct, 1.6 arrests per 1,000 students versus the state average of 0.4 arrests; and third for highest student arrest rate for first-time, non-serious misdemeanors, 1.6 arrests per 1,000 students versus the state average of 0.5 arrests.

The ACLU report included recommendations for policymakers to reduce racial disparities through training, to support youth through investing in school-based mental health providers and appropriate training for all staff and to limit police overreach in schools through training and negotiating clear roles and policies for school police.

A copy of the report and letters to school districts is available at aclufl.org/safetolearn.

Mobi-Mats Deployed The Santa Rosa Island Authority (SRIA) has deployed the use of Mobi-Mats on Pensacola Beach. A Mobi-Mat is a portable rollout, non-slip matting that is temporarily or permanently laid down on the ground to provide grip and easy access for all wheelchairs, strollers and pedestrians on mobility-resistant sand, grass or other soft and unstable surfaces.

Funded by the SRIA and deployed by Escambia County Public Works, the mats will be located on five beaches along the island—Casino Beach, Park West North Beach, Moms Beach, Boardwalk Beach and Baby Beach.

An additional feature, a Mobi-Chair, will be found at Casino Beach and Moms Beach. A Mobi-Chair is an amphibious wheelchair that will provide the user easy access to the Gulf or the Sound when conditions allow its safe use.

Mark Your Calendars DIB Finance Committee meets at 4:30 p.m. on July 9 at Bowden Building, Room #2, 120 Church St.

State Rep. Alex Andrade will hold a town hall with school board member Paul Fetsko and ECUA member Lois Benson at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 9, at Escambia High School’s Library.

AAF Pensacola will installed its officers—President Diane Farris, Vice President Sean Sullivan, Treasurer Sean Chivers and Secretary Ashley Darby—at its Fourth Annual AAF Bowling Fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, July 11, at Cordova Lanes, 2111 Airport Blvd.

District 1 County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh will hold a town hall at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 15, at Beulah Middle School, 6001 W. Nine Mile Road.